Hanna lashes Bahamas, threatens US East Coast

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos (AP) - Hurricane Hanna slumped to tropical storm strength while grinding away at the Bahamas and other Atlantic islands on Tuesday, and forecasters said it still poses a hurricane threat to the U.S. East Coast.

The storm snapped trees and kept Providenciales, capital of the Turks and Caicos islands, without power. It hurled rains that caused flooding across Cuba, Haiti and Puerto Rico, where at least one person died in a rain-swollen river.

Hanna's maximum sustained winds slipped to 70 mph (110 kph) and the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said it could weaken further. But it still has the potential to become a hurricane again by Thursday. The hurricane center said its forecast track would carry Hanna toward "the east coast of Florida, Georgia or South Carolina in two to three days."

But it said the track was uncertain and that the entire Southeastern U.S. coast should closely monitor the storm.

Hanna's movement has been agonizingly slow for people in the tourist magnets of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos, directly under its winds. The storm was near Great Inagua island in the Bahamas around midday Tuesday and was moving to the west-southwest at 6 mph (10 kph). It was expected to reach the central Bahamas by Wednesday.

The storm had not caused major injuries on the island, home to about 1,000 people, but it knocked out power, downed trees and tore shingles from roofs, said Stephen Russell, interim director of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency.

"I'm not anticipating any major structural damage," Russell said.

Newly formed Tropical Storm Ike was cruising westward across the central Atlantic and was projected to near the storm-weary Bahamas by Sunday. It had winds of 60 mph (95 kph) and could become a hurricane on Wednesday.

Still further to the east, Tropical Storm Josephine formed and it was heading west at about 15 mph (24 kph), with maximum sustained winds of about 40 mph (65 kph). The hurricane center said it could near hurricane force by Wednesday or Thursday.

A man from Colombia died and a Brazilian woman was missing on Monday after they were swept away in a river swollen by Hanna's rains. The two were students at the University of Puerto Rico on a trip to the island's east. People living near the northwestern Haitian city of Gonaives told Radio Caraibes that floods there sent residents fleeing to their roofs.

More than 8,000 Haitians remain homeless in the wake of Hurricane Gustav, which was downgraded to a tropical depression as it moved over central Louisiana late Monday. At least 95 people have been killed by storms in Haiti in the last month alone.

Hanna prompted NASA to put off shifting the space shuttle Atlantis from an assembly building at Florida's Kennedy Space Center to the launch pad for at least a day. The move had been scheduled for Tuesday in preparation for an October mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)